Sales at local farmers markets are steadily increasing, despite a national downward trend. Four out of five farmers markets operated by the SLO County Farmers Market Association broke single-day sales records this year.
Of the farmers markets operated by the association, the Saturday market in the World Market/Embassy Suites parking lot in San Luis Obispo has maintained the highest annual sales for the past 20 years — in 2014 its annual sales totaled $1,153,946.
The Thursday farmers market in downtown San Luis Obispo generated the second highest annual sales in 2014 with $648,645. Third was the Thursday afternoon Morro Bay farmers market in the Spencer’s Fresh Market parking lot, which generated $534,879 in 2014. The market with the fourth highest sales was the Wednesday morning market in the Arroyo Grande Smart and Final parking lot, which totaled $348,565 in 2014.
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In addition to increases in annual sales, in July four of the association’s farmers markets broke their previous records for total daily sales. The San Luis Obispo Saturday morning market reached a record high of $30,417 in single-day sales on July 25. The market’s highest single-day sales have been steadily increasing for the past nine years. Vendors sold 5.6 percent more product on July 25 than the previous single-day sales record in 2014.
According to a study conducted in January by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the rate of growth in the number of farmers markets nationally has slowed considerably over the last five years.
Peter Jankay, executive director of SLO County Farmers Market Association, attributes the rise in local sales to the demographics of San Luis Obispo County — with many people embracing a healthier lifestyle and food options such as fresh produce.
Jankay said the association has increased visibility for its farmers markets through promotional efforts, in addition to finding new ways to attract customers, including the recent addition of live cooking demonstrations at several markets and wine tasting at the Saturday San Luis Obispo market.
The Saturday San Luis Obispo farmers market, which began in July 1978, was the first certified farmers market in the county, as well as one of the first certified farmers markets in the California.
Until the state enacted the Direct Marketing Act in 1978, farmers could not sell their produce directly to consumers. The legislation paved the way for regulated certified farmers markets where field run food could be sold — food that was ripe and off-size.
Single-day sales records
Each farmers market's all-time highest single-day sales occurred in July 2015.
- SLO Saturday market
Sales: $30,417 | Date: July 25
Sales: $19,579 | Date: July 2
Sales: $16,118 | Date: July 2
Sales: $8,691 | Date: July 1
Source: SLO County Farmers Market Association